The Police in Delta State have arrested an 11-year-old, Clementina Uboyo, for attempted murder, detained her for two days and denied her bail.
Uboyo was tending to her sick aunt at home when policemen from Area Command Ughelli came to arrest her mother over a dispute with a neighbour. Although her mother was not around, the minor was taken into custody by officers on Saturday, leaving the sick aunt all by herself.
FIJ gathered that a lady and her boyfriend came with machetes to fight with Uboyo’s mother at her residence. While Uboyo’s mother got bruised on the hand, her brother was stabbed. The lady sustained an injury following a retaliation by Uboyo’s mother.
Witnesses said that the lady reported the issue to the Police, who later came to arrest Uboyo’s mother.
“I see it as kidnapping because Clementina was not even at home when the fight happened; she went for Catechism classes,” a witness told the FIJ. “She is just in JSS 1. She was grabbed when she made attempts to run because of the confusion the arrest generated. The Police took her to the station barefooted and improperly dressed.”
At the police station, Uboyo was charged with attempted murder and made to write a statement with neither a lawyer nor family members present. Although she was not kept in a police cell – because there were men in it – her movement was restricted and she was denied bail by the Police.
“The arrest is illegal. She was arrested in lieu of her mother,” Gwamnishu Emefiena Harrison, a Delta-based human rights activist, told FIJ. “The Police insisted that if the girl’s mother does not come to the police station, she would not be released.”
Requests by family members and that of Harrison to the Police for the minor to be granted bail were ignored until the activist put out a post on social media. The activist was later called by one SP Lawrence to send someone to file bail for Uboyo. She was released on Monday morning, after two days in custody.
But DSP Onome Onovwakpoyeya, Delta State police spokesman, in response to requests for comment, said Uboyo was among those who attacked the lady and that she is 14 years, not 11.
“If a person commits violent crime, should the person be left to go free? Why then do we have juvenile centres?” DSP Onovwakpoyeya said in response to the detention of the minor.
However, Harrison argued: “Whether she gave her age as 14 at the police station but family members said she’s 11, she is still a minor. Proper investigation should have been done. Why should the police detain a minor for two days? If she’s suspected of a crime, why was she not charged to court?”
Barrister Gloria Egbuji, the Executive Director of Crime Victims Foundation, who has trained over 21,000 police officers in Nigeria on human and people’s rights, said it was unprofessional for the Police to arrest and detain a minor. She, however, clarified that a minor who is suspected to have committed a crime could be invited for questioning but could not be detained.
“There’s no reason why they should arrest her because arrest by proxy is not allowed. The criminal justice system treats minors differently from adults. Most police officers are ignorant of what they should do,” she said.
“You just leave police college and believe that all you should do is fight crime, not knowing that their job also involves protecting human rights. The police officers involved in this unprofessionalism should be disciplined and the girl should be compensated because her right to dignity was violated.”
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